daylight_darknight: (Earth Sunrise)
[personal profile] daylight_darknight

Title:
Ghosts of Tomorrow
Characters: Mick Rory, Rip Hunter
Rating/Warnings: PG for a little swearing
Genre: Friendship, Angst
Word Count: 2500
Spoilers: Takes place somewhere near the end of 1x16
Summary: Mick confronts Rip about why he won't save Sara's sister and learns some things he didn't expect.

“I'm supposed to be dead,” Sara had said. “Well, I guess that's nothing new,” she added dismissively as if it were no big deal. “So much for third time's the charm.”

But it got Mick thinking. He left Sara in the kitchen eating through another box of Rip's cereal collection, Quisp, the vitamin powered sugary cereal for Quazy energy, and went in search of their Captain.

The corridors of the Waverider were still filled with debris, the repairs so far having focused on things that were a bit more vital. As he approached the med bay, he heard the sound of raised voices. Ray and Stein, who were supposed to be fixing the place up, were in the middle of another argument over some science thing Mick couldn't make heads or tails of. No doubt it was something trivial and pointless as usual. He hurried by not wanting to be drawn in. Knowing Haircut, if he spotted Mick, Ray would be more than happy to make him part of it. Soon the sound of music reached his ears, some loud and synthesized pop, modern by 2016 standards. He grimaced. Peering into the engine room, he spotted Jax completely oblivious to his presence, bobbing his head up and down to the beat as he happily tinkered with the engines. Mick left him to his work, and his horrible taste in music, and continued on.

He finally found Rip in the cargo hold. The place looked more of a mess than the rest of the ship, but that was because there was more stuff in there to make a mess with. Containers of various sizes had been tossed all over the place mixed together with large fragments of metal torn away from the ceiling and walls. So far Rip seemed to have only managed to tidy a small corner of the room, a couple piles of neatly stacked boxes attesting to his work. The Captain was working with his back to Mick when he entered grumbling to himself as he attempted to pull out a large metal strut which had fallen from the ceiling and embedded itself in a wall. He was sweaty and his hair a mess suggesting he'd been at the repairs awhile now. He had stripped down to his gray T-shirt which along with the rest of him was now spotted with dark soot marks. It was odd seeing him without his near ever-present long coat. He looked a lot smaller, a lot more vulnerable without it. Mick wondered if that was why he wore it.

Strangely, seeing Rip like this made him think of that vulnerable fourteen-year-old in juvie who was too small and too smart mouthed and too dumb to back down. Heaven knows why Mick stepped in that day. Maybe it was because he couldn't stand to see big bullies picking on someone who couldn't defend themselves. Maybe it was because he'd admired the kid's guts when he spoke back even as he was beaten down. Who knows. Mick shoved the memory away, not wanting to deal with the feelings it brought up.

Speaking of morons, he thought as he watched Rip struggle. He went over to help the Captain before the man gave himself a hernia.

Rip startled slightly when Mick came up behind him and grabbed the strut, but he recovered quickly and together they managed to yank it out of the wall.

“Thank you, Mr. Rory,” Rip said.

Mick just grunted in reply. He still wasn't used to people actually thanking him for stuff.

Rip dumped the strut on a pile of debris he was creating in the middle of the room, and then went to study the hole the strut had left in the wall.

Mick leaned against the opposite wall and crossed his arms across his chest. “I talked to Sara,” he said.

“Yes?” Rip said absently as he frowned at the hole.

“She told me why you wouldn't take her back to save her sister.”

That got a bit more of a reaction. “Oh,” Rip said, some unease sneaking into his guarded tone. He didn't turn around but Mick could see his shoulders tense up. “And?” he prompted. He grabbed one of the tumbled about containers, righted it, and began checking its contents.

“Sara said she was supposed to have died,” said Mick letting his gaze bore into the back of Rip's head as the man worked. “That in the original timeline before you whisked us away Sara died trying to save her sister. That that's why you brought us back to May 2016 instead of January.”

“Yes, that's true,” said Rip still keeping his back to him

“But there's more to it than that, isn't there?” said Mick taking a step forward. “That's wasn't the only reason. I might be thick but I can put things together.”

Rip finally turned to face him. “I...” he began but Mick didn't let him finish.

“No more lies, Hunter. The truth. You said you recruited us because our removal would have minimal effect on the timeline. That's because we're all supposed to be dead, aren't we?”

There was a moment of silence where both men remained unmoving staring at each other, and then Rip looked away. He let out a deep breath and sat down on a nearby container. “Yes,” he said, gazing at the floor. “If I hadn't recruited you by May 2016, you would have all been dead.”

Even though Mick had suspected that, it was still a shock to hear it. He wondered if that made them ghosts now, real dead men walking. “Why didn't you tell us?”

Rip gave a sardonic smile. “Because surprisingly people don't react very well to hearing they're going to die.”

The sarcasm didn't faze Mick. Snart had been his best friend for decades. He was used to sarcasm.

“How?” he asked.

Rip raised his eyebrows. “You really want to know?”

Mick had the feeling he might regret it but he needed to know the truth so he nodded.

Rip sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “Well, as Ms. Lance may have told you, she died trying to save her sister during a prison break orchestrated by a certain Damien Darhk. I believe you had a brief run in with the man in Norway in 1975.”

Mick's eyes widened. “That guy?” he growled. “I knew there was a reason I didn't like him. I should have killed him when I had the chance.”

“I doubt you'd have been able to,” said Rip. “Darhk practices black magic and was a rival of Ra's al Ghul himself. By the time of the prison break, he'd gotten his hands on an idol which made him damn near unstoppable. He killed Laurel because of previous threats he'd made to her father and killed Sara as a bonus; then when her father tried to get his revenge, Darhk killed him too. The Green Arrow and the rest of his team were there and they were powerless to do anything. Even if we went back, there is little we could have done. Besides...”

“Time wants to happen,” Mick finished for him.

Rip nodded sadly. “If we went back, all we would have ended up doing is witnessing Laurel and Sara's deaths for ourselves, and I for one couldn't bear that.”

Mick let the bitter facts slowly sink in; then he asked, “What about the rest of us?”

“Dr. Palmer... Ray was also in a way a victim of Damien Darhk,” said Rip.

“Are you sure we can't kill this guy?” Mick demanded, his fiery temper igniting.

Rip raised a placating hand. “Darhk is taken care of in time. If we were to interfere, we might just get in the way of that, and that is a disaster I am not willing to risk.”

Mick scowled. He understood. He didn't like it but he understood. “And Haircut?”

“Ray was killed trying to stop a nuclear bomb Darhk had unleashed from hitting a city called Havenrock.”

Mick snorted. “Sounds like the sort of thing he'd do.” That smug smiling idiot had tried to do something similar in 1975 after all. Not to mention how he had nearly gotten himself killed trying to blow up the Oculus. Mick made a note to slap the guy on the back of the head when he had the chance. It's not like he'd have the chance to do it to Snart.

Gritting his teeth, Mick pushed the feelings down again, both the grief and the temper which threatened to flare up once more. “What about the kid?”

Rip grimaced. “Jax was killed, along with Martin, trying to take down a man called Zoom.”

“Wait,” said Mick frowning. “I've heard that name before. Wasn't he causing some trouble for the Flash?”

“Quite a bit of trouble actually,” Rip replied. “Zoom is sort of an evil Flash from another universe.”

And it said a lot about what Mick had been through recently that that sort of statement didn't even seem strange to him.

“They were trying to help,” Rip explained. “Barry had temporarily lost his powers. Zoom was terrorizing Central City. Jax and Martin thought they could take him down by themselves. They were wrong.”

Mick's hands clenched into fists.

“Zoom killed Jax personally. Martin managed to separate but he died a few days later.”

Mick began pacing the room. The urge to light something, preferably someone, on fire was overwhelming. “Brash, arrogant...” he growled under his breath.

Rip watched him, his face etched with sadness as if the deaths he'd been describing had been real instead of simple possibilities of a now defunct timeline.

After a few moments, Mick got himself back under control and stopped pacing. He took a deep breath. “Me and Snart?”

“Zoom also released a group of metahumans into Central City,” Rip continued gazing down at his hands. “They were attacking everyone, causing chaos. You and Mr. Snart took advantage of that, of course.”

The ghost of a smirk crossed Mick's face. “Of course,” he said. He would have expected as much. Chaos was the area in which he and Snart thrived.

“You were robbing some place. One of several places I believe. I don't recall where. You encountered a group of metahumans. They were attacking a woman and her two children, and you tried to help.”

Now that he didn't expect. Mick frowned.

“The metahumans were too much for the two of you,” said Rip. “You didn't make it. Barry said he got there in time to save the civilians, but not in time to save you or Leonard.”

Mick stared off into the distance. That was one way to go, he supposed, not a bad way either, fighting back to back with Snart, their guns blazing, but he would have expected it to have happened while fighting the police or some damn superhero not fighting some metahumans to protect a random woman and her kids. The new him might do something like that, maybe. He knew he had changed. Snart had changed. But the old Captain Cold and Heatwave... Maybe that change was always meant to happen.

Suddenly, the entirety of Rip's last sentence sunk in, and Mick's head swung around to stare at him. “Barry said?”

Rip winced. Apparently, he'd revealed something he hadn't meant to.

Mick took a step towards him. “When did you talk to the Flash?”

For a moment, it seemed like Rip wasn't going to answer. He got up and paced a couple lengths of the room before he finally spoke. “I may,” he confessed reluctantly, “have had a bit of a conversation with Mr. Allen and Mr. Queen sometime in your future before I recruited the team.”

“And they what? Recommended us?”

Rip nodded; then said, “Well, Mr. Allen may have exalted more upon Mr. Snart's virtues than your own, but yes, he recommended you.”

“Huh,” said Mick. He'd known Allen had a strange soft spot for Snart, just like Snart had a strange soft spot for Allen, though he'd never understood why. He certainly didn't understand why he'd recommend him for this. “So you knew the whole time,” he said to Rip.

Rip frowned. “Knew what? That you died?”

Mick shook his head. “No. How we died. That we were...” He couldn't quite say the word.

“Heroes at heart?” said Rip with a laugh. “Why do think I recruited you in the first place?”

“I thought it was because you thought bringing a couple crooks along would come in handy.”

“Well, yes, there was that,” said Rip. “But I would have never brought you along if I hadn't known the potential that was there, and it was there. It was there in all of the team. You proved that.” He made a face. “It took me awhile to actually see it,” he admitted. “I hadn't anticipated such discordant personalities, or the mischief and mayhem you'd bring, or everyone's ability to constantly attract trouble.” He gestured wildly for emphasis, his voice rising in pitch and annoyance as he spoke.

“You're welcome,” said Mick because pissing off Rip had become one of his favourite pass times.

“Or how damn self-sacrificing you'd all be,” Rip added bitterly as he sat down on the container once more.

“Says the man who flew a ship into the sun to save the world.”

Rip rolled his eyes. “Well apparently, it's catching.”

And wasn't that the truth. Mick thought of the clusterfuck of him, Ray, and Snart all trying to be the one to sacrifice themselves to blow up the Oculus and save the others. Snart, the sneaky bastard, had won. If you could call it winning.

Something else occurred to Mick. “Originally you were going to dump us back where you picked us up. That's what you said when you recruited us. You were going to take us back to January 2016.”

“That was the plan,” said Rip avoiding Mick's eyes once more. “That's what as a Time Master I should have done to keep the timeline intact.”

“But you didn't.”

“I couldn't,” Rip declared vehemently. “If I had, events would have reasserted themselves and you'd have all most likely died. I couldn't bear the thought of losing anyone else.”

The Time Master changing his precious timeline for them. Maybe he and Snart weren't the only ones to change.

Rip must have caught the surprise on Mick's face because he gave a sad smile and said, “You see that's the other thing I didn't anticipate when I recruited you, Mr. Rory. I never expected to become quite so attached.”

Mick thought of Jax and his horrible music, of Ray and his smug optimism, of Stein and his ridiculous science, of Sara and her ability to drink even him under the table, of Kendra and Carter and their damn chicken wings, even of Rip, that stupid coat of his and his annoying rants about the timeline. He thought of how angry he got at the thought of any of them dying and just how happy he'd be to kill anyone who so much as hurt a hair on their heads, the same way as it had always been with him and Snart.

“Yeah,” he said. “Me neither.”
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